Continued from Part 1
Cough, cough — hack!
It was either just a good old-fashioned dose of psycho-somatic terrorism or God was exercising Her infamous sense of humour again, but after my, “you’re HIV negative, I guess, but please check back for the rest of your terrified little life because you probably actually do have it” diagnosis, I instantly caught the Goddamn flu.
Instantly. The Goddamn flu.
My lymph nodes swelled up like hardboiled dinosaur eggs, shivering and sweating became my back-up dancers, my sinuses snapped together tighter than Mormon girl knees, and fever! Fever all through the night….
All textbook signs of seroconversion, of course.
Seroconversion? Well, chile’, seroconversion is what the ancient cave doctors used to call it when one suddenly went from negative to positive. It means: “Sorry, dear. Don’t make any long term plans.”
Cough, cough. Shiver.
A week or two later, my flu went away, of course. And so did the date of my follow up HIV test. And so did the one after that.
I was petrified — it would have been easier to jump off a cliff. I was flat-out just too afraid to face the results. I couldn’t bring myself to walk through the clinic doors. I just couldn’t.
I was still convinced my flu was my seroconversion. I was going to die, horribly. It was really happening. Would I break out in those awful purple lesions? Get dementia? Would my teeth fall out? Would I have to wear a diaper? Die of some strange bird disease no one ever heard of? And, my God, how the hell was I going to tell my mother?
Those and a million other black and terrible questions were racing through my brain, fighting for attention, and each one of them was like a punch in the stomach.
I decided to take refuge in a heaping pile of manic research — anything and everything related to HIV. I dived in up to the tits. The latest studies, the newest data and reports, biographies and articles, personal anecdotes, Deepak fucking Chopra, Louise fucking Hay…all of it.
I wandered into some very strange territory. People had thrown the kitchen sink at the virus, and there were more quacks than a duck pond in June. Some people built little generators that electrocuted the virus to death in one’s lymph nodes — zap! Some dude had people drinking aloe vera juice mixed with hydrogen peroxide. (You could buy the shit at the local GNC, but mostly it just gave you a rash.) Total body blood transfusions, faith healers, Brazilian psychic surgeons, raw licorice root. One book even insisted that all soaps, shampoos, and detergents must be banished from one’s life forever, because somehow AIDS was caused by shampoo and/or stench, apparently. (Lord, don’t even ask.)
But what I did learn was this: a wee fistful of people living with AIDS lived more than ten years. Most died ugly. But not all. The longest survivors had some important things in common. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, none of them went on, “the pills”.
At this juncture, “the pills” basically consisted of AZT and a small pocketful of other mostly experimental, rather scary, and not very effective anti-viral pharmaceuticals. These delicious little darlings unleashed a toxic nightmare of side effects that would kill you quicker and messier than the disease.
(There had even been cases of patients taking the pills that had withered and died — or come very close to it — that were later discovered to have been given false positive diagnoses. They didn’t have HIV at all. “The pills” had done all the dirty work. The virus could just kick it and chillax. “The pills” were really just a poisonous act of desperation.)
The survivors did other stuff instead.
The longest survivors had embraced what I would describe as aggressively healthy lifestyles. Like, aggressively.
They stopped drinking. Smoking was the devil. They started exercising. A lot. And meditating, to reduce stress, give the immune system an alleged “boost”, and silence those millions of dark and terrible racing questions that they apparently had in their brains, too. They dropped out of high-stress situations and started paying scrupulous attention to everything that went into their mouths. Macrobiotic, vegetarian, whole, raw foods. They juiced everything that wasn’t nailed down, as long it was free-range, organic, and locally sourced. Chinese herbs, extreme stress management, positive affirmations, wheat grass and yoga up the yin-yang.
I made a compromise. I was too afraid to take the test, that’s all there was to it. And the medication killed you anyway. So I decided to do everything I would do if I got bad news, and that meant doing what the long-term survivors did. Aggressively.
So I did the yoga. Got really good at it. I did lifting and the meditating and the juicing. I juiced dawn to dusk. I juice fasted. I juiced juice. I lived on organic vegetables and Chinese herbs. I did the bloody kombucha. I hate bloody kombucha. Acupuncture twice per week. Chiropractor once a week. (They were a husband and wife team, all I had to do was cross the hall… ). My skin was flawless. My tits were bangin’.
Meanwhile my boyfriend wasn’t doing so well.
At moments, it seemed like the bastard virus was rushing through him like wildfire in high winds: constant upper respiratory infections, fevers, and an ER trip for pissing blood at 3 AM. If I was worried every time I sneezed, it was twice as bad every time he did — and he sneezed a lot. Sometimes it seemed like he was disintegrating like brown sugar in a warm rain right before my eyes….
I shared with him all of my findings, forced him to drink the kombucha and swallow the herbs. I signed him up with a remarkable organization in Portland called the Immune Enhancement Project, and put him on their program of massages and acupuncture, and herbal T-cell boosters. But he really didn’t seem to care very much. About any of it.
But I soldiered on for my own sake: in addition to my exercise and diet habits (and giving up booze and coffee, which hurt), I obviously also needed to address my sexual inhibitions, of which there were none.
I figured: if by some small miracle I inevitably turned out to be negative, I never wanted to be in this situation again. And if I ever put someone else in the same situation? Kill me now. I just couldn’t live with the guilt. Of course, this brings us squarely back to that I-Really-Hate-Condoms thing from earlier. Remember? If I may quote me, ahem:
“To compound the problem, I have always hated condoms. Loathsome, vile boner killers. Off-putting and utterly unnatural. And that’s all I have to say about that. Wear a condom.”
I obviously needed to make some serious changes.
To be continued…